Difficulties confound efforts to start detox center in Garfield County
A group of Garfield County leaders trying to establish a detox center will consult with municipalities’ attorneys concerning excise taxes and licensing fees to pay for the facility.
The initial idea of a county sales tax was almost completely off the table during their Tuesday meeting.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia didn’t have any confidence that voters would go for a sales tax increase. She suggested looking at fees for liquor and marijuana licenses.
Kevin Batchelder, Garfield County manager, said commissioners opposed reallocating the county’s sales tax for the detox center, other than what goes to municipalities.
And while the group previously discussed a potential location owned by the county, commissioners rejected the idea.
If the groups wants to pursue an excise tax on marijuana or alcohol, it will have to go to voters in each municipality, said County Attorney Tari Williams.
Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said establishing an excise tax is easier for the new marijuana industry than the established liquor industry, which is already federally regulated with a fee structure in place.
Bernot, too, was unconvinced that Carbondale residents would support a sales tax, much less the western Garfield County residents who may not see the benefit of a detox center for their towns.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba was concerned that licensing fees alone wouldn’t be enough to cover the detox center’s costs, or else they would be too burdensome for businesses to be realistic.
Dr. Al Saliman, chief medical officer at Valley View Hospital, said the time frame for submitting a ballot initiative for this year’s elections had likely passed.
Other ideas, such as reallocating some of the state marijuana tax money toward local detox centers, would require legislative action, but Caloia encouraged the group not to discount that possibility.
Sheriff Lou Vallario agreed to reach out to the County Sheriffs of Colorado and state Rep. Bob Rankin about state-level action.
Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling brought up an option of fining offenders convicted of driving under the influence and using that money for a detox center.
Jackie Skramstad, regional director at Mind Springs Health, presented operational costs for the proposed center, both for a two-bed center and a six-bed center.
Mind Springs estimates that a two-bed facility’s annual operating costs would be $521,954, and the six-bed model would run $849,781. That’s not including the capital costs of either building the facility or retrofitting an existing building.
Grand River Health in Rifle and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, being the organizations most affected by the lack of detox services, have pledged about $120,000 toward a center. But that figure would also have to be reviewed annually.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson pushed for the six-bed detox center. In a past meeting Wilson said his department could “fill those [two beds] by noon.”
The group’s next step will be to get advice from each municipality’s attorney about the legality of pursuing an excise tax, licensing fees for liquor and marijuana or other revenue sources, Saliman said.
And though he had been spearheading past meetings, county Commissioner Mike Samson will not continue his involvement with the group, said County Attorney Williams. As the discussion of paying for a detox center had progressed, it looked more and more like the task force would end up with a tax or fee that would have to go before county commissioners or a grant application to the Federal Mineral Lease District. In either case, said Williams, Samson didn’t want to create a conflict of interests.
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